Of Prisms and Vacuums

I closed the door behind the man, having shaken his hand and offered a spoken blessing in reply to his.  

Tears welled up in my eyes as I locked the latch and turned away from the door.  Looking through those translucent prisms, by then running down my cheek, I walked over and flicked the light switches to the off position. 

The rainbow-hued prisms disappeared along with the light overhead, but the vision in my mind remained.

I talk too much.  That won’t be news to many who know me.  But, as the men had wrapped plastic around the old glass counters before carting them out to the moving truck in the parking lot, I couldn’t help reminiscing aloud.

They are the very same glass counters which were in the little music store the first time I walked into it, nearly forty years ago.  Then, the slight, white-haired old man leaned on the edge of the counter in front of him, a quizzical smile playing across his lips.

That is the vision that will not leave my head—the smiling man leaning, hands flat on the glass top of the counter.

Today (perhaps by coincidence; perhaps not) is the anniversary of the old man’s death.  I told the men as much as they worked.

I still miss him.  He was friendly and jolly, as well as stern and thoughtful.  I loved his stories.  I was frustrated by his stubbornness.

I love his daughter.  I love being part of his family.

But, this is not a sad tale, even though I began it in tears.  It’s not.

It is a story of blessings—blessings I can’t begin to count.  They are blessings that are likely to pass on to the third and fourth generation.  Or, so it seems to me.

You remember?  You who were raised in a church and Sunday School?  The words are right there in the Old Testament.

The sins of the fathers will be passed on to the third and even to the fourth generation.  (Exodus 20:5)  Years after the perpetrators are dead, their children will be dealing with the consequences.

You’ve seen it happen, haven’t you? Perhaps not in the extreme that passage brings to mind, but if you’re anything like me, you’ve seen it.

I’ll never be like my father!  How many times did I say it, growing up?  Fathers can make children so frustrated.  And, in our childish frustration, we make promises—assuming we’ll never ever do that thing that made us angry.

Fast forward ten years, perhaps fifteen.  A member of the current crop of teenagers in the house says or does something amiss, and the response comes from deep within us, without consideration.  Immediately, the brain spins back over the years and the chagrin sets in.  

How is it possible that I opened my mouth and my father came out?  How?

But, wait!  I said I would write of blessings, didn’t I?

So, I shall.

Just as the negative habits of our fathers and grandfathers are often stored up to be released at some later date, so too, good habits work to the benefit of future generations.

A heritage of blessings becomes to each succeeding generation a blessing, a way of life, a habitual practice of blessing those who come after.

A heritage of blessings becomes to each succeeding generation a blessing. Click To Tweet

My father-in-law was no exception, nor was my father.  Mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers—not a day goes by that I don’t recognize the blessing of a Godly heritage.

It is part of God’s natural law, if you will.  And, it does not in any way deny His power in changing hearts and in saving by His astounding grace.  

But, with His own hands, He set the worlds in motion, designing the way their inhabitants function, down to the minutest detail.

And, just as those tears in my eyes earlier today made me see momentarily through rainbow-colored prisms, I realize that we see our world with the collective sight of those who have shaped us.  

Good—bad—their influence is unmistakable. 

We function, not in a vacuum (if there is such a thing), but in a constantly changing and ever-expanding world of influence, seen and unseen.  Our every action and reaction has an effect on those around us.

Every one.

There is more, I know.  

When we are drawn by the Spirit and saved by God’s grace, everything changes.  His presence makes us want to do right, and even gives us the power to do it. (Philippians 2:13)

His presence in our lives makes all the difference.

Still, it should increase our understanding of our responsibility to those around us, rather than diminish it.

We have the power to affect the world for generations to come.  We get to choose.

Good.  Bad.

Blessing.  Cursing.

I like Joshua’s thoughts on the matter as he made his choice and declared, with no ambiguity whatsoever, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

Many who have come before in my life have chosen well—some, not so well.  Most of us can relate.

There is no vacuum in which to live.

There may be tears to see through.  

I pray they’ll be tears of joy.  And, tears of temporary sorrow.

Prisms of light through which we see the world clearly.






I saw behind me those who had gone, and before me those who are to come. I looked back and saw my father, and his father, and all our fathers, and in front to see my son, and his son, and the sons upon sons beyond.
And their eyes were my eyes.
(Richard Llewellyn ~  Welsh novelist ~ 1906-1983)



© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.






I think I first heard the insult from one of my brothers.  He didn’t make it up himself.

Maybe you’ve heard it, too.

“Well, I. . .”

“That’s a deep subject—for such a shallow mind.”

It was funny the first twenty times. Eventually, I learned to start my sentences without the mention of the water source.

I thought about it again today when my young friend interrupted my monologue about some things I’ve been pondering recently.

“Those are some big thoughts you’ve been having, Paul.”

In my head, I immediately finished the idea for him.  

. . .for such a tiny brain.

He didn’t say the words and probably didn’t even think them, but still—I couldn’t help but wonder.  The red headed lady who raised me used to say it differently.

“You’re getting a little too big for your britches, Bub.”

It’s a funny thing, though.  I remember her buying me bigger pants when I outgrew the ones I was wearing.  Same thing with shoes, and shirts.

She didn’t want me to stay a small person.  From her diminutive height of five feet and four inches she looked up to her taller sons, two of us eventually reaching six feet, with pride.

She never wanted anything else but for us to grow.  She never wanted anything less than for us to reach further.

Parents are like that, you know.

Somehow, much of society wants nothing more than to pull us back into the teeming mass of the everyday.

Don’t get above your roots!

Remember where you came from!

Time and time again, the crowd pulls us down and reminds us that we need to fit in—to conform.

Ah, but I remember being in crowds with my Dad.  When you’re a kid, crowds are a pain.  You can’t see anything—can’t get anywhere.

stack-1230254_640But, with Dad, all I had to do was ask and, within seconds I was sitting on his shoulders, above the crowd.  No more looking through legs and around fat torsos.  No more stumbling and being shoved.

Parents are like that, you know.

But the day comes when the child is too big to sit on shoulders, too heavy to be carried through the crowd.  By then, they’ve learned to stand on their own feet and to see far ahead of the crowd.  One would hope anyway.

I encouraged and aided my own son to adulthood and then, stood aside and bragged.  Well, not exactly bragged.  But, I still remember the first time a co-worker of his praised his abilities and his work ethic.  

Ha!  The first time?  I remember the last time it happened, just a day past.

Parents are like that, you know.

And a voice came from heaven, telling them, “This is my only Son.  I am exceedingly pleased with Him.”  (Matthew 1:5)  

Evidently, there is another Father who wants His children to excel.

He gives us the tools to do just that—lifting us when we can’t see, carrying us when we can’t walk, encouraging us as we gain strength and wisdom.

Parents are like that, you know.

One has to wonder:  Why is it we seem to be satisfied, all too often, with the norm?  

Why do we stay a part of the crowd, when we have the advantages we’ve been given?

Why are we afraid to grow?  Why are we afraid to excel?  Why are we afraid to stand tall?

I wonder.  Surely I’m not the only one with big ideas (rattling around in a tiny brain).

Perhaps, it’s time we started acting on the big ideas.

It seems likely that we’ve stood on the edge of the dream for too long.  I think I hear a voice, almost like that of Aslan the Lion in the Chronicles of Narnia, calling us further up and further in.

Still encouraging.  Still calling.

Parents are like that, you know.



He turned swiftly round, crouched lower, lashed himself with his tail and shot away like a golden arrow.
“Come further in!  Come further up!” he shouted over his shoulder.

(from The Last Battle ~ C.S. Lewis ~ English theologian/author ~ 1898-1963)


Now look here, gal, you’d better be yourself
And leave that other stuff on the shelf
You’re country, baby
That’s plain to see

Don’t get above your raisin’
Stay down to earth with me
(Don’t Get Above Your Raising ~ Flatt/Scruggs ~ American Songwriters)





© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.

My Father’s House

I joked with the Lovely Lady as I headed for my office tonight.

“I’m not sure there are any words left in me, but the morning light will tell the tale.”

“Ha!”  The humorless laugh burst from her lips.  “You said that awhile back, and I’ve had to proof thousands of your words since then.”

She has a point.  Only days ago, I felt the well was bone dry, and my efforts at pumping the handle utterly futile.  I had said all I had to say, shared all the wisdom I have gathered over my lifetime.  Hopelessly, I gave the handle one more push.  One final, desperate attempt.  I don’t know from whence the words came (I never have anyway), but suddenly they gushed out.  Like water on the parched earth, they washed away the dust and debris, leaving fertile ground in their tracks.  

For awhile.  You may have read some of them.  They may even have made sense to you.  

I hope you enjoyed the experience.

The well has dried up again.  Or, so it seems to me.

I remember when all I had to do was to walk up to the warehouse where the nouns, the adjectives, the adverbs, and the verbs were stored, and yell at the building. Immediately, they all piled out the door in a long conga-line of letters and punctuation, ready to swing into action.  I could always find a few conjunctions to hold them all together, as well.

Tonight, I stood outside and yelled, but nothing stirred.  Then, like the police SWAT team, I even walked through the building clearing each room, but only turned up two or three words in my search.  They’re lined up outside now, after I ordered them out of the building.

I wonder if they’ll be any help to me.  I’ll hit them with the spotlight just in case.

father. house.  

That’s it?  No wait.  There’s something hiding behind the first one.  Yes, I see it.  An apostrophe and the letter s.  

Father’s house?  Oh.  I know what this is about.  I don’t want you guys.  You can go.

What’s that?  You want to know what it’s about?  

I warn you.  It won’t be pretty.  They’re only a couple of scrawny little words right now, but as soon as I use them, they’re going to be joined by a lot of other words you don’t want to hear—words like memories, the past, sadness, moving on, maybe even death.  

I’ll tell it, but it won’t be a pretty picture, I can assure you.  I know I don’t want to see it.  In fact, that’s the reason the words were hiding.  I stashed them there in the dark myself and told them to stay out of my sight.

I was going to say the story started just a few days ago, but suddenly I am aware that it really began over fifty years in the past. 

HomeThat’s when we moved into that home.  Seven of us moved in, fresh from a tiny mobile home on the two-acre lot across the street.  Seven.  We thought the place was a mansion.  Well?  After cramming seven people in that little two bedroom trailer, it was a mansion.

Fifty-two years of living, loving, arguing, yelling, crying, singing, eating, playing, talking, listening, sewing, writing, hair-cutting, nursing, reading, sleeping, cleaning fish, plucking chickens, and—well, you get the idea.  

It all happened there, and a lot more.  A lot more. Cousins came to visit, along with grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, preachers, missionaries, and tattooed men riding motorcycles.

Mostly, it was the seven of us.  Making memories to last a lifetime, some warm and fuzzy, some not so nice.  We’ve all got the good with the bad.  For many of us, time rubs the rough edges off and the good memories shine brightly, while the bad ones fade into the background.  

And, what’s so bad about all that, one might ask?  I told you it wouldn’t be pretty, didn’t I?

The not pretty thing is that it’s all coming to an end.  I mentioned the story begins a few days ago.  That’s when the letter arrived.

The place is going to be sold.  It sounded so calm and businesslike.  Clean.  Painless.  My intellect agrees.  I told the man so.  

“It’s a great idea, Dad.  You should have done it years ago.”

My intellect doesn’t rule my heart.  My heart wants to know how you sell your memories.  My heart wonders if perhaps it would be less painless to cut off a hand.

I sit and look over all the words which have trooped out to join the original two and the truth dawns.

I haven’t set foot on that property for nearly ten years.  Except for sporadic periods of time, no one has lived in it for nearly twenty years.  Yet somehow, my memories of my time there are still intact and clear as they ever were.  The loving feelings for my parents and siblings, nurtured and tended to there in that two-story residence, remain to this day.

The old ramshackle frame building is in need of someone else to inhabit it.  Perhaps it will, one day soon, be home to another young family who will abuse and test its structural limitations, much like the Phillips brats did.  

It’s time.  Still, the act of selling it is so final.  We can never go back.  Never.

Except in our memories.

It’s time.

Those two words are still slouching against the warehouse, though.  They haven’t been used yet.  Perhaps, I can put them back away for another day.  But then again, maybe not.

Father’s house.  

Funny.  The words never described the building I’ve been writing of.  That was my family’s residence.  Sure, it was a home, as far as homes go here.  It was a great place to live and love and share.

It was always temporary.  

You see, my mom has already moved on to the Father’s house.  My dad is recognizing that it won’t be many years and he’ll be changing his address permanently, as well.  Going to his Father’s house.

My intellect knows that it is a better residence than what they’ve had here.  Absent from the body.  Present with the Lord.  (2 Cor 5:8)

My head knows this.  

Still, my heart aches to think of it.  It is so for all of us.  

And again, I look at those words and contemplate others I also believe, and I know the memories will have to do.

For now.

We’re all just here temporarily—pilgrims—nomads—headed for our Father’s house.

We're all just here temporarily—pilgrims—nomads—headed for our Father's house. Click To Tweet

It’s not for sale.  

But there are mansions to live in there.

My Father’s house.

Good words.




There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you.
(John 14:12 ~ NET)


Where we love is home—home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.
(Oliver Wendell Homes, Sr. ~ American physician/poet ~ 1809-1894)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved. 

The First Step

I don’t believe that dreams are prophecies.

Well, now that I’ve ostracized a good number of folks, let me qualify the statement.  When I say dreams, I mean the normal sort.  You know–the ones we have when we lie down to sleep at night.  The ones made more vivid by that extra round of extra spicy Buffalo wings you had at dinner.  Or, the scary movie which was splashed across the television screen as you sat and dozed in your easy chair.

It doesn’t mean dreams aren’t meaningful.  They often are.  When we sleep, our minds go where they will, no longer guided and controlled by our discipline and resolve.  Things we already know about ourselves, but aren’t willing to think or talk about when awake, somehow can be revealed as images in our sleep.

I usually can’t remember what I dream about. 

Usually.  But, not last night.

Even before I was completely asleep, in the wee hours of this morning, I lay in bed and saw myself standing on the edge.  No, not the edge of a cliff, although I have seen that image in my head before, both in real life and in dreams.

The edge I stood upon was that of a circular hole in the floor beneath me.  The hole was large enough for a body to fit through comfortably.  Funny thing, I could look down the hole and see that it was lined with a white pipe, almost like PVC.

I could only see about ten feet down the pipe and then it curved out of sight.  Even in my half-awake state, I could feel my heart racing.  In my dream, I backed away from the pipe.  Then, drawn by some irresistible urge, I eased forward step by terrified step to peer downward once more.

I really dislike heights.  Heights without handrails, that is.  Give me a good grip on a handrail and I’ll look down from the highest cliff or the highest tower you could imagine.  There was no handrail here.

It was just a hole.  A hole that led somewhere–I couldn’t tell you where.

I knew it was a dream.  I knew it.  You know how your mind works.  It seems real, but you know it can’t be.  And besides, you’re lying in bed with the fan blowing on you.

It’s only a dream.  Jump!  What could happen?

No.  Wait!  What’s down around that curve?  You have no idea what’s down there! 

What if there’s no more to it than what you can see and it drops you into a bottomless pit (I hear those are real common in dreams)?  You’ll fall screaming forever.  All because you jumped into a hole you knew nothing about.

I considered the issues.  Really. 

In my dream. 

I wondered–Is this the only way I’ll ever really make the transition from restless dreams to deep sleep?  I have to trust myself to this tube that goes who-knows-where without any more information.  If you think about it, we do it every night.

Mr. Tolkien talks about roads that sweep you off your feet to foreign lands.  Sleep can do that too.  Really.

Perhaps the mystery slide is representative of a major decision which I need to make.  Life goals stand ready to be grasped, if only I’ll trust myself to the unknown depths.  I’ll never get there if I don’t take the plunge.

Decision time.  What will I do?

I take one last downward look and–I swing my legs over the side of the bed and go downstairs to get a drink.  When I return ten minutes later, the slide is no longer to be found and I sleep.

Ah, wonderful sleep.

After attending church this morning, I came home to help the Lovely Lady prepare our traditional Sunday Dinner.  The feast for family and friends has come to be a high point of our week.  Food, discussions–escalating to disputes and then diminishing back to agreeable differences, jokes, and lovely memory-making are the stuff these times are made of.

There is a shadow over my memory of today’s feast. 

As I helped prepare the table, my brother sent me a text.  I wasn’t ready to read it yet.

“He doesn’t feel like she has a lot of time left.”

He is my Dad.  She is my Mom.

Tears came to my eyes without warning.  Even as I write these words, they come again.

Through my tears, I see that hole from my dream again.

I’m beginning to grasp it now.

skycaliberwaterslideYou’ve seen them before, haven’t you?  Extreme water slides.  Thrill seekers flock to them every summer.  The drop in altitude is what they love–that quick plunge, setting them free from gravity for just a fraction of a moment, long enough to wonder if they’ll ever stop in time to avoid disaster.

They know they will.  It’s been safety tested.  Why, they even climbed the tower right beside the tube, exclaiming all the while about where each twist and turn will take place.  Pointing to the plastic pipe right beside them soaring up into the sky above, they know just where it starts and where it will end.

They know.  And they’re happy to take the plunge.

Because they know.

The red-headed lady who raised me has been climbing for a good many years now.  She’s had lots of company along the way, but there is just One who has always been there.  Always.

The day is coming.  Soon, it seems.  No one can know for sure.

I can just see Him standing there smiling, asking her if she’s ready.  I don’t know if she’ll be frightened, like I was in my dream.  But, I do know her answer will be in the affirmative.

She’s ready.

He’ll wrap His strong arms close around her and they’ll take the first step together.  She’s never done this before.

But, He has.

And, He knows.




For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
(1 Timothy 1:7 ~ KJV)


I won’t have to cross Jordan alone
Jesus died for my sins to atone
In the darkness I see he’ll be waiting for me
I won’t have to cross Jordan alone
I won’t have to cross Jordan alone…
(I Won’t Have To Cross Jordan Alone ~ Thomas Ramsey ~ American songwriter)


© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.